PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz said on Saturday that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's opponents had suffered exemplary defeat as she hit out at the PTI-led government for the hike in prices of utilities and petroleum products.
Addressing a rally of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) – an anti-government alliance of opposition parties – at Faisalabad's Dhobi Ghat ground, Maryam said in Nawaz's tenure [as PM], sugar was Rs50 per kg, and now after three years, it had crossed Rs120 per kg while electricity prices had shot up from Rs10-11 per unit to Rs25 per unit.
"There was a man named Imran Khan, who used to say when flour becomes expensive, when sugar prices rise, when rates of electricity and petrol rise, know that your prime minister is a thief," Maryam said.
"So who is the thief now?" she asked a charged crowd.
Maryam also criticised the government for the dengue outbreak, particularly in Punjab.
"The entire world is facing coronavirus, but now because of their [government's] incompetence, people are dying of dengue," she said.
"There is no one here like Shehbaz Sharif who used to visit hospitals," Maryam added.
Further criticising the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government, Maryam said it had failed to provide electricity to people during summer and gas during winter.
"This is where this government stands," she added. "And then, Imran Khan used to call Nawaz Sharif a thief. But time has proved there's not a man more honest than Nawaz Sharif or Shehbaz Sharif in Pakistan's history."
The PML-N vice president went on to allege that the PTI government had deliberately delayed the procurement of the liquefied natural gas and bought the commodity at a high price.
"This is why you have costly electricity and face load shedding today," she said, addressing the crowd at the rally.
Maryam added that if she would start speaking about Imran Khan's corruption and scandals, "It will be midnight, but the stories of his corruption will not end."
The PML-N leader also lashed out at the incumbent government for "using the NAB (Naitonal Accountability Bureau) against its opponents".
"And when it came to their accountability, they changed the NAB law," she said.
"But no matter how hard you (PM Imran) try, your ministers will be held accountable," Maryam added.
She also lashed out at the government over its decision to keep information about gifts received by PM Imran from foreign heads of states and governments and other dignitaries confidential.
Referring to Pandora Papers — an investigation on financial secrets held by high-profile individuals across the world — she said the name of Prime Minister Imran Khan and those of other PTI members had been included in the list of persons owning offshore companies.
"But here, the nation was told that Imran Khan's name is not included in Pandora Papers. Have you ever heard [anyone saying] that the leader of a pack of thieves is an honest [man]?" she remarked.
Maryam questioned why there was no hue and cry over Pandora Papers, as had been witnessed following Panama Papers.
The Panama Papers investigation in 2016 had linked eight off-shore companies with the family of then prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Shehbaz Sharif.
"Where are the multitude of talk shows that television channels were made to broadcast at the time of Panama Papers?" Maryam questioned at the rally in Faisalabad.
Taking a dig at the premier over reports that he had been disgruntled by US President Joe Biden not calling him, she described "Imran Khan's foreign policy as being limited to Modi doesn't receive his call and Biden doesn't call him".
"And then, when he is asked about the US president not calling him during interviews with foreign [journalists], he looks down in shame. He fails to realise that it is not just humiliating for him but also for Pakistan," she added.
She also referred to the recent controversy and speculation over the appointment of the Inter-Services Intelligence director general, saying that Imran Khan had made a mockery of a national institution.
The PML vice president claimed that PM Imran had not attended the recent UN General Assembly session in person because "none of the world leaders was willing to meet him".
Concluding her address, she urged the nation to "rise [against the government] and change your fate".
"Rise for your future generations, rise to change the fate of Pakistan," she said.
On her way to the gathering, Maryam shared videos on Twitter showing throngs of supporters welcoming her.
"Love of Nawaz Sharif," she tweeted along with a video that showed party loyalists surrounding and entourage of vehicles.
PDM President Maulana Fazlur Rehman also addressed the gathering after Maryam.
However, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif did not deliver a speech and was neither seen attending the rally.
Earlier, the PML-N's official spokesperson also could not confirm his participation.
Maryam had criticised the government over the hike in petrol prices while talking to the media in Lahore today before setting out for Faisalabad's rally.
According to a notification issued by the Finance Division, the new price of petrol, effective from October 16 (today), was set at Rs137.79 per litre while high-speed diesel would sell for Rs134.48.
The PML-N vice president termed the price hike a "calamity" that had fallen on the people like a "lightning bolt". "When petrol and diesel become expensive then your electricity, wheat, bread, vegetables and everything become expensive," she added.
She said the PDM's prior rallies had been successful at raising awareness with even children now cognisant of "what game was played with the country".
"Now this rally that will take place will be a decisive one and I want to tell a lot to the nation in my speech. It is my appeal to the nation to definitely listen to it. The time for a decision has come and this will be a decisive rally."
Responding to a question, she said the PDM was perhaps not planning for a long march right now, adding that "this government is itself doing a long march against itself."
Local leaders of the PML-N have mobilised workers by organising different corner meetings at various places in the district.
Faisalabad's rally will be followed by a meeting of the PDM's heads in Islamabad on Oct 18 to take up the alliance's agenda. The discussion was deferred on Monday in the wake of the recent deaths of nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, former Azad Kashmir prime minister Sardar Sikandar Hayat Khan and PML-N MNA Pervez Malik.
The agenda of the meeting included a discussion on the current political situation with reference to price hikes and the proposed electoral reforms of the government, which included the use of electronic voting machines in the next elections. Besides this, the recently promulgated controversial ordinance granting extension to the tenure of National Accountability Bureau chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal was also part of the meeting agenda.